I return to you unrefreshed by a hiatus for which I can only apologise. It all started the first weekend of August. I went to visit Old Mother Baby for a few days. We were watching Miss Marple on ITV3 during the Saturday evening when, during a break, I happened to glance at the BBC news headlines on my phone. A headline, three stories down the page past Libya and phone-hacking, read “Disturbance in Tottenham”.
Having watched the Spuds’ pre-season friendly on ITV4 earlier (yes, I know it’s a terrible thing to admit but by that stage I was so desperate for football that I was willing to watch almost anything. Except Liverpool), I wondered if it had kicked off slightly after the game.
When I turned the TV to BBC News, the first thing I saw was the burning bus on the High Road, with a side order of a road sign ironically stating “Low Emissions Zone”. Having put Old Mother Baby to bed after Marple, I retreated to my lair and ended up not going to bed till 1.30am, following events through Twitter and listening to the radio. Virgin ‘80s played Ghost Town at about midday, given the gravity of the situation which had developed during the evening, this sent a shiver down my spine.
With civil disturbances continuing, and reaching Birmingham by Monday, I was not looking forward to returning to London on Tuesday afternoon as I realised this was clearly going to have an impact on my job (I’m a typing monkey in the City in something that is connected with finance but isn’t banking, and given the way the riots impacted, you can probably guess the field I work in).
As my bus reached Birmingham City centre on the Tuesday, I kid you not, every mobile phone shop had been raided. I walked past Foot Locker on my way to New Street Station. They had re-stocked, but not re-opened.
When I reached London, it really was like a ghost town. Shops closed. Windows boarded, the streets unthinkably empty at just after 5.00pm. There had been reports of trouble near where I live (one of those Twitter rumours), but this had proved to be unfounded.
And when I got to work on the Wednesday, it was like the Siege Perilous. Run off our collective tiny feet. And as I tend to write my articles of a lunchtime, by the time one o’clock rolled around each day I was just happy to slump over my keyboard for a break.
And then, the day after the season started, a further, much more serious blow fell. Having been in sparkling form and most excellent health of late the 82 year Old Mother Baby blacked out, fell and broke her leg. I won’t share too much of the misery of that week with you, but we were told before her op that we might lose her due to the duration and severity of the surgery (plates in leg combined with removal of previous false hip to enable same).
However, before the operation there was one clear, simple instruction. I was not to travel back to Birmingham for the operation, neither was I to travel up at the weekend. Oh no. I was to stay in London. And Chelsea were to give Albion a damned good thrashing. The reason for the latter instruction is a peculiar one.
For some reason OMB has an almost pathological hatred of WBA. Living in the West Midlands, she is usually listening to the local BBC radio station, and it is her humble opinion that the Baggies receive way too much coverage and she hates them. Even more than she hates Aston Villa, which is saying something. She adores Wolves though. Probably something to do with Mick McCarthy.
So, the week dragged with the op scheduled for Friday, and by 4pm that day I was beside myself with worry about the lack of news. I’d chalked up a Mass every day of the week. Left the besieged workplace at 5pm for a brief spell in the gym, and missed a phone call saying OMB was safely back on the ward. So, after that news, there was only one way to go on the Saturday. A serious drink in celebration.
Sustained by a pre-pub fry up with a strawberry milkshake, I visited a variety of licensed establishments, recording an impressive record breaking 16 vodkas (either diluted with lemonade or in the form of Smirnoff Ice), and a Baileys (we won’t go into the matter of how I consumed that). And the amazing thing was I didn’t have a hangover the next day, probably as a consequence of the 8.30pm Muchroom Carbonara, as it was described on the menu at Lloyds Bar in Fulham Broadway.
I forsook the dramatic events of the Norwich game last Saturday to visit me old bird. I hadn’t wanted to know the score, but my brother blabbed during visiting that we were a goal up, and after that you keep wanting to look and see what’s going on. I went into the centre of Birmingham between visits. I’d seen we’d conceded an equaliser.
That was it. I wasn’t looking again until 4.50pm. At that time I was wandering around Selfridges. Thought I’d give it another 10 minutes, after which I resorted to Twitter to see that we’d got a pen, we’d scored, Drogba had had a horrible accident, there were going to be 11 minutes of injury time and Mata scored in the 101st minute. A big thank you to all the Twitterers, especially @BluesChronicle for helping me find out what was going on.
A conversation this week with a Twitter chum reminded me that the family do have form for limb breakage in August. This time 31 years ago I was nursing a fractured arm which had to be reset under general anaesthetic after I was deliberately tripped by my elder brother during a game of football. My crime? Nutmegging him.
Speaking of breaks, the football season at this time of year is punctuated with them. Charity Shield – international break. Handful of league games – international break. A few more domestic games – another international break. The season never really seems to get started until November.
Having missed the Norwich game and decided against Sunderland on the grounds I couldn’t quite afford the train fare (and am now going to Birmingham instead anyway), I’ve ended up with a break of a month, but then have the prospect of a run of Leverkusen, Man Utd, Fulham and Swansea to keep me contented. And the fact someone owes me £50 for my Norwich ticket (West Stand, sold at face value, in case anyone from the club is reading this).
I’m slightly saddened by the timing of the away Valencia game. I had really hoped to draw them, and was delighted that we did, but now find myself unable to go as the game is taking place at the end of September. CL games used to follow a pattern, with games against the second seeds usually taking place back-to-back in the middle of the schedule. The schedule now seems to have been booted all over the place.
I’m hoping we’ll have a safe passage through to the round of 16, at which time I fully expect to draw Porto, if we make it through, and readers of previous “Travels” will recall that next time we draw them, I’ll be taking a suitcase.
On Twitter? Follow me at @BlueBaby67.